Authentic Sexuality v Dressing Like Prostitutes
Why do moms let their daughters “dress like prostitutes?” asked Jennifer Moses in a Wall Street Journal piece that got people talking a while back.
Moses thinks it’s because the moms had a sexually free past, which they now regret. “Not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject,” she declared, “has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”
Well, wouldn’t you want your daughters to NOT look like prostitutes, then?
Yes, but mom’s don’t want to be hypocrites, she says, so they don’t know how to advise their daughters.
Joyce McFadden, writing in the Huffington Post, sees things differently,
I think the real problem is that dressing provocatively is one of the only outlets we allow our daughters to express their sexuality.
McFadden prefers a different approach, though, recommending moms help their daughters to own an authentic sexuality.
Sounds good. But — leaving aside the question of how girls should dress for now — what would authentic sexuality be?
As I see it, authentic sexuality contains many parts.
Authentic sexuality is not shameful
Bombarded with words like slut, skank and whore, it’s easy for sexually interested young women to feel polluted. I’m not aware of even one positive word that specifically communicates women enjoying sexuality. Compounding the problem, when parents avoid discussing the matter with their daughters the silence shows embarrassment. Meanwhile, church elders warn of the untamed libido, but the message can come across as “sex is sinful.” Opposing images of “Madonna and Whore” emphasize the point. Even when sex is forced upon women against their will, they can end up feel shamed, themselves.
Instead, women and girls need to know that sex it is completely natural. Understanding and exploring their bodies and what pleases them is, too.
Authentic sexuality is not a crutch for powerlessness or low self-esteem
More than one commenter on McFadden’s piece felt girls dressed provocatively to gain power over boys, or to simply feel empowered, generally. I’m all for female empowerment. But how much strength is there, really, in drawing the male gaze? Or in gaining a favor here or there? Is this power substantive? Some women may skillfully use their sexuality to manipulate, but manipulation is a weak form of power. It’s what people do when they feel they have no other choice.
Another commenter sees the matter differently: “I’ve worked as a school counselor and there is a difference between girls wearing clothing they are comfortable with and girls who wear clothing to manipulate and have power over boys, which is a self-esteem issue.”
Really about self-esteem? Maybe that’s right because I don’t see a lot of real power in sexy dressing.
Nothing wrong with feeling good when people find you attractive. But hopefully it’s not a primary source of self-worth. That sort of beauty is all about the surface, and it is fleeting.
Instead, real contributions create real power and substantive esteem.
Authentic sexuality also involves cutting through the lure of the market, peer pressure, and the flood of images that scream “sexy is” to discover one’s own sexuality and authentic pleasure.
But I’ll save that discussion for next time.
I’m on Spring Break. This is a rerun.
Posted on March 31, 2014, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.